Stella Donnelly/Alex The Astronaut
Oxford Art Factory, April 18
Reviewed by Michael Bailey
Think Australian political pop and long-ago lyrics of burning beds or feet chilled by Channel 7 choppers might spring to mind. But this gig found the protest song alive and thriving in the guitar-picking hands of two 20somethings.
Fremantle's Stella Donnelly certainly has the voice to get a message across: the purity of Joan Baez mixed with a Spotify-friendly sensuality.
She also has two great songs that, judging by their acclaim from this female-dominated audience, have become anthems for the #metoo movement since their release on last year's Thrush Metal EP.
Donnelly sang Boys Will Be Boys, written in response to the sexual assault of a friend, like the event it describes happened yesterday. Solo electric guitar lines gave pretty counterpoint to her anger at the excuses made and victim-blaming laid around such crimes.
Mechanical Bull, meanwhile, dropped the prettiness for a raw-throated battle cry, inspired by Donnelly's stint as a barmaid. "I need to be alone/You've been at my throat," she sang over and over, its threat toward those leering drinkers growing into a warning for every would-be Weinstein in the world.
Intensity gave way to goofiness for Donnelly's friend and co-headliner Alex the Astronaut (Alexandra Lynn to her mum, who was in the crowd and got a heartfelt apology from her daughter for swearing too much).
What the Sydneysider lacks in vocal range and guitar finesse she makes up for in her songs' conversational directness, instantly memorable melodies and utter lack of pretension.
Lynn's naivety strayed a little too close to novelty on I'm Not Cool and Rockstar City, which came with clapping instructions.
But a growing worldliness was evident on new song Banksias Blooming, which reflected on the death of a high-school friend, and the killer couplet from Already Home, "There's billionaires for President/And parking fines at hospitals".
Then there was her one bona fide political song, Not Worth Hiding, the rallying cry of last year's same-sex marriage plebiscite. Hearing that anthem for acceptance bring the house down in this Oxford Street venue provided a special moment.
"Thanks for being so attentive to the serious stuff," Lynn told us.
When topical songs are as heartfelt and musically enjoyable as the best on offer tonight, our attention should be guaranteed.
Stella Donnelly and Alex the Astronaut play a second show at Oxford Art Factory on April 19.